booking rain dates
i'm a freelance shooter. i've worked with a couple units at the local pbs station for years. one of them has taken to asking for rain dates for outdoor shoots, and it's costing me money. but i love these guys and they've given me a lot of work over the years... so you see the problem. no other client has ever asked me for rain dates, so i don't know if there is some sort of arrangement that people normally use for this situation. when i say something about it, they just shrug their shoulders, and i don't have anything to suggest other than the take-it-or-leave-it that they're effectively telling me.
I'm from Arizona. What, exactly, is "rain"?
It's a dry heat!
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What specifically is the question? Are you wanting to charge for booking additional make-up days in case of a rain-out, and/or asking what should the policy be for billing, if the dates are booked but not used? Does the policy change if a conflicting client opportunity for those reserved days presents itself?
I would say adding a rain date effectively blocks you from making money with someone else for that day, so as a business person you should bill it, but only *if* anybody else calls in asking to have that date and you have to say no, its reserved.
I think if I had the pull, (was able to take or leave a client) I would bill it like a travel day; it is in the service of the same client and precludes you from making money with anybody else for that day. I would however convert it to a no-charge if the held date was "released" in a reasonable amount of time so there was at least a *chance* I could get another paid gig for that time. That to me is the best of both worlds: you are responsibly covering the bases for the current paying client, and not charging for time not used, but keeping yourself flexible if other options present themselves. I think anybody you ask would agree it is fair to charge something for your "waiting around just for you" time. I have a union contract that says if they want me on "stand by" status, after hours or on a weekend, i.e. gear packed and loaded in the trunk, ready to move out and shoot something on five minute's notice, and I'm stuck standing around waiting for that call, at the office or at home, they have to pay me for that time because I'm effectively on their clock, not my own. On the weekends it's based on double time, and it should be: they are taking away from the 2 days a week I have to be with my family full-time, going somewhere or doing something, and that is worth a lot more.
Now if the client is super-big, you're super-broke, with few other prospects, and you don't dare upset them, you likely have to eat the extra day in the name of good client relations. Maybe put it on the bill and then "discount" it.
Or just raise your rate, because giving away a free day effectively just cut your day rate in half, when you think about it. Less than half, since usually the rain doesn't come. I think if that was the case, your overall day rate for that client could stand to be raised a wee percentage as a means to get back the value of the "lost" days, at least in part. You don't have to tell them specifically that that's why the rate has gone up this year. But in essence you're still billing them for that lost day, just not full rate and in their face.
The way we do it, and I believe many other post houses in NY do it, is that a client can put an editor and edit suite on hold. We even use 1st hold, 2nd hold etc for jobs a fair way off. If another client wants that editor/edit suite, they "challenge" the booking. The initial client then has the choice to "buy" the time or drop their hold. If they drop their hold, the challenging client has to then buy the time (to ensure they are not screwing the 1st client over).
If an editor/edit suite has been bought, but cancels, we bill them anyway. This might be a bit risky for a low-budget client. But for our clients (HBO, USA, ESPN) they are so big that we have to make sure they don't screw the little guy.
I don't know if other people are doing anything like this, but it works well for us. We respect our time considerably and other people should too, as we respect our clients time. This philosophy should extend from top to bottom no matter the rate you set.
New York City
We're a medium sized production house in the midwest, and you absolutely cannot get away with charging for rain dates...or for last-minute cancellations for that matter.
It doesn't matter how big the client is in a medium-sized city or region. If they ask for a rain date and/or book a shoot or edit, then cancel, they WILL NOT pay for that time. If you charge them, you can kiss their business goodbye forever.
Remarkably, this issue has only occurred a few times per year over our 12 years in business. Additionally, the clients almost always rebook and use the time. I can only think of one case where a client booked something, cancelled, then never came back.
We look at it from the reverse side of the coin. What if WE were the producers and we booked time at some facility at $175/hour. Then our bone-head client called with changes or delays and we had to cancel our shoot or edit because of it. I would certainly feel screwed if I had to pay for that time when it wasn't my fault we had to cancel.
Maybe you can get away with it at a facility in a large city where you're booked constantly. But our 3 suites are booked about 60-70% of the time. We might have 2-3 shoots per week on average. So a cancellation or rain date here and there doesn't really affect us, other than being a bit of an aggravation.
Hope that helps.
Magnetic Image, Inc.
I understand entirely what you are saying. Please don't misinterpret what I have written as suggesting that people cannot cancel jobs. This happens all the time. It is only when they are committed to "buying" an edit session that they are financially locked in, otherwise we would have accepted the offer from the challenging client. If there is no challenge on a job booked on "hold" they can cancel freely without repercussions.
That said, sometimes you can't taint your client like that, but often we deal with the producers of a major studio who really have nothing to do with the money aspect so they're not likely to get offended by the corporate office receiving an invoice.
New York City
No worries..I didn't misinterpret your post, and I certainly wasn't condemning anyone who is able to get full or partial rates for cancellations or rain dates. I was just trying to point out that often it's market and booking dependent. If our edit suites were booked 90% of the time and cancellations and changes impacted other clients and our ability to generate revenue, I'd have no qualms with charging something for last-minute changes, cancellations and rain dates on shoots.
But since we're only booked at about 60% capacity at most, it really doesn't have much of an effect on revenue, and it rarely impacts other client projects.
So the point was that it depends on your bookings, your relationship with clients and the part of the country you're working in.
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Chris, you make perfectly good points. there has to be some flexibility, not just as a matter of good will, but also as a practical consideration. having said that, if someone books me, uses the word "booking," and i turn down other work and am subsequently unable to find another job for that day, i expect a kill fee. when they book me i take on the responsibility for their shoot, that i will be there to do the job or find a capable replacement. if they can't take that same level of responsibility, i can't accept their bookings.
thanks for the replies, all.
i just thought there might be some sort of s.o.p. that i was unaware of, since i've never really dealt with rain dates with any other client. but it is what it is, and i guess i have to apply the usual book-or-release for each individual day.
i try to maintain a certain amount of flexibility with regular clients, as opposed to whipping out the rule book at every turn. but i can't subsidize their shoots with my own unpaid days. whether or not they see it that way.